Tuesday, October 11

"How much did they sell her for?"

I went to Walmart yesterday and found $200 worth of things I didn't even know I needed. However, there was no charge for the amusing conversation I had with the cashier who noticed right away that Gwen was Chinese.

I had a bit of trouble understanding her because of her very heavy (Hispanic) accent but she was chatty and seemed proud that she was able to guess that Gwen wasn't my daughter.

I explained that she *is* my daughter and she was adopted from China. She stopped scanning my stuff momentarily and looked me dead in the eye and asked me with great curiosity how much the Chinese people sold her to me for.

I should point out that she wasn't hostile with her questions. Even so, I was a little bit taken aback. Maybe she just assumed there was a market for Chinese babies and, somehow, the birth mothers of these children benefited financially from the transaction. She probably couldn't imagine any other motive for a mother to give up her baby. It's not unusual that she thougth this so I (nicely) set her straight.

Truth is, Gwendolyn cost less than the hospital bill for Michael's birth 17 years ago! I said this and the people in line behind me leaned forward on their carts to listen too.

I explained that most of the adoption expense was for fees here in the United States and airfare and government fees in China. The orphanage got some of the money (which helps improve the quality of life for the other orphans) but the birth mother would never be identified and she gets nothing. I spoke, briefly, of the one child policy and the difficult choice the birth mother faced.

Everyone in line behind me was interested in our discussion. They all thought Gwen was adorable and they were shocked that she's only been in our family for 5 weeks since she looks so comfortable with me. I enjoyed this opportunity to be an Ambassador to China-Adoption and clear up some pretty big misconceptions!


Blogger Rina & John said...

Way to go Becca (Donna)! Soon I'll be asked the same questions too and I'm trying to be prepared for them. It's amazing how much mis-information there is about adoption in general.


October 12, 2005 6:31 AM  
Blogger M3 (Mary-Mia) said...

Go Donna! You handled that amazingly well. I'm going to take notes so I'm prepared when the time comes.

October 12, 2005 10:50 AM  
Blogger Johnny said...

When I explain to someone that asks why a baby was abandoned, I tell them that it's illegal to give up a baby. Then, they ask, well, why didn't they just give it up for adoption. Sigh. Then, I have to tell them, ONCE AGAIN.

October 12, 2005 11:57 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Wow. It's great that you are so tolerant. That was quite an intrusive question for a complete stranger to ask!

October 12, 2005 1:14 PM  
Blogger Gracencameronsmomy said...

Wow, you are so calm! That one really gets to me.I don't mind all this explaining now, but what about when she is 12?
Lisa Smith

October 12, 2005 2:45 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Lisa, I hope the world is smarter by the time Gwen is 12. If not, then she can explain all of this to the ignorant (or the uninformed) herself!

October 12, 2005 4:43 PM  
Blogger PeiLien said...



October 12, 2005 5:26 PM  
Blogger MKBookWorks said...

Yes this is difficult. I have already faced the battery of questions: why china? how much? are you the problem or your DH? All asked (at various and multiple) times by people I either don't know at all or at least not very well! I did sort of try to answer and educate. I have learned tho - I save my exasperation for Friends and Family! If it seems like a genuine search for information thats one thing.. but yes, what happens when my daughter is old enough to know what "How much did you pay for her?" means and then I have to explain that we did not buy her from anyone etc. Very annoying - but I don't know how people can be so limited in information that even if it were possible to buy a baby somewhere - it would surely be illegal.. and therefore not something you would want to discuss in the hair salon!!!

Missy - DTC 3/11 LID 4/7
So Next its painful!!!!

October 13, 2005 12:09 PM  
Blogger Babygirl's parents said...

Hi Donna,
But you handled that well!
At the moment they are too young to understand these questions. How about this one the other day at Target... "why she was put in the orphanage, what's wrong with her?" and this other double take comment (with Steven right next to me): "Is your husband Chinese?" My reply: "Umm...no, not the last time I looked." sorta snotty of me...
I guess as our daughters get old enough to understand these comments or, the gist of them I will need to have something in mind for our reply to these curious but intrusive questions. How about " That's a very personal question".
Right now, if she'd just sleep through the night!!!
Hope you are all doing well. Gwen looks terrific!!

October 14, 2005 12:46 PM  
Blogger Trixie said...

Hi. I just stopped by and wanted to tell you that I too find hundreds of dollars of stuff in Walmart, Target, etc which I simply could not live without but had no idea I would need. With the adoption under way, I am refusing to visit said stores until after the referral. Otherwise I think we will trouble paying the last set of fees ! Yikes.

October 17, 2005 11:03 PM  
Blogger di said...

Good answer, Donna!!! -di

October 19, 2005 10:54 AM  
Blogger marilyn & evro said...

What a classy way to handle the situation. Nice job.

October 23, 2005 10:14 PM  
Blogger Andrea and/or Jeff said...

Hi Donna!
I've gotten the question about how much did she cost as well (from a usually clueless co-worker, and without my daughter there, fortunately) and my answer was "Well, raising children is always pretty expensive, but so worth it, don't you think?" said with a smile. I really like this answer. It seems to kind of cut off the conversation without seeming overtly rude or (if my daughter is there and when she is older) making her feel unwanted or paid for or as if I'm uncomfortable with the question (which, of course, I am).
I just don't think there is any reason to respond at any length to "How much did she cost?" because it is ignorant enough that I figure they are beyond educating quickly (though I might cut a little slack to non-native speakers of English). "How expensive was the adoption?" is a whole different question and depending on the situation I might answer that one more extensively.
But...I'm practicing on restraining myself in general during the couple of months I think I still have before Bella understands everything! Really she seems to understand a shocking amount now at 21 months, so I don't think I have very long and I need a LOT of practicing because my generally tendency and my professional tendency (as a reference librarian) is to answer any and all questions. But my understanding from hearing from adult and teen international adoptees is that they pretty much hate all conversations of this type, friendly and well-meaning or not, because it continually points out how different they are from other kids. Sure, different is special, but how "special" does anyone want to feel on a daily basis.
Sigh, this is such a struggle for me, because it goes against my personality and my desire to educate--and I'm really proud and happy with my daughter from China and want everyone to know it! But... it isn't about me; it is her story to tell or not, even though she isn't old enough yet. I read where someone suggested carrying a card from the adoption agency and handing those to people really interested in adopting, and jotting down your phone number on the back for a conversation that doesn't put the child in the spotlight. I think I might try that.
I know I will still answer some questions and have conversations and I do think that will help make the world a teensy bit better for my daughter and in general, but I'm working on trying to seem a little less approachable by people who just want to be voyeurs on my family.
Just my current ramblings, I sooo like your blog!

December 12, 2005 12:12 AM  

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